“Cereal Milk” has been trademarked by the Momofuku empire, and if you’ve tasted it, it’s easy to know why. The soft serve is mild, milky nostalgia in a frozen treat. I don’t have a soft serve machine, but if I did, I would definitely try to recreate it at home.
Most people can’t make soft serve at home, but Momofuku does have a recipe for cereal milk panna cotta with avocado puree, chocolate-hazelnut thing and caramelized cornflakes. As with a lot of Chang and Tosi dishes, the recipe is long and involved.
I started out by making the praline paste, which is used in the chocolate-hazelnut thing. Praline paste is just roasted hazelnuts and sugar or sugar coated nuts which can be ground up into pastes and powders. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted praline paste on it’s own before.
The recipe is deceptively simple. The ingredients: hazelnuts, sugar and a tiny pinch of kosher salt. While reading the recipe, I though, this sounds pretty easy. Well, I thought wrong. The first mishap happened during the first step. You’re supposed to roast the nuts in a 400˚F oven for 15-20 minutes, then let them cool. Let’s just say there’s a delicate line between roasting nuts and burning them.
It’s wasn’t too horrible, but the nuts were definitely on the toasty side and some of their skins were completely black. I didn’t want any of the skins in the praline paste so I didn’t let my nuts cool; instead I used a clean tea towel to rub the hazelnuts against each other. Rubbing them all together when the nuts are warm causes the skins to fall off easily.
Complete fail avoided, I then went on to the caramel step of the recipe. The sugar is put in a pot over medium-low heat and left to melt and caramelize around the edges before you start to stir it. I was so busy obsessively rubbing the last little bits off the nuts that I didn’t realize how melty the sugar got. A couple of quick stirs and it looked fluid, so I thought it was good to go.
At this point, you’re supposed to have your nuts all ready to go in a food processor. My freshly rubbed hazelnuts were all ready to go, so I poured the hot sugar over them and started to blend. That is, I tried to start to blend. After pouring in the caramel, it hardened immediately, making it impossible to processes. From the sound of the recipe, I thought that everything would come together in a “hot sweet mush” that would turn into a “smooth, even paste.”
Needless to say, this didn’t happen. I spent the next half an hour trying to salvage what I could by using a fork to chip away at the rock hard sugar. Thankfully hardened sugar melts away under hot water. I contemplated starting all over again, but since I didn’t have enough hazelnuts, I decided to blend up what I had left and see if I needed to add extra caramel.
The hard sugar and hazelnuts blended up great, so I suspect that some hot caramel got in the gears the first time around. The smell of the ground up hazelnuts and caramel was intoxicating, but it didn’t come anywhere near to a paste, so I made up a second batch of caramel to add in.
Thankfully the second batch of caramel didn’t cause the machine to seize up, but it didn’t make the praline paste and more pasty either. I ended up with praline powder: magically delicious praline powder. The stuff is seriously addictive. I was eating it by the spoonful until I realized that I needed to stop myself or I wouldn’t have any left for the chocolate-hazlenut thing.
Coming Up: Caramelized Cornflakes, Chocolate-Hazelnut Thing, Avocado Puree and Cereal Milk Panna Cotta.